Q: I know our two teenagers to be fairly vocal, but I have a hard time getting them to say anything when they get home each day. I’ll ask “How was school today?” and the best I get is usually an anaemic, “Fine.” How can I get them to open up?
A: If you’d like to open the door of conversation a little wider for your teen – or really, anyone – to walk through, remember these two simple ideas: Ask about something specific, and don’t ask “yes” or “no” questions.
Say something like, “Tell me about that group project you’re doing,” or “What drills did your PE teacher make you run at practice today?” Questions like that narrow your child’s focus and present the opportunity to offer you actual information.
Also, be prepared to engage them no matter how they respond. If they say, “I hate math,” or “School is stupid,” don’t dismiss that. Lean in and pursue the topic. Ask them to share what’s on their mind – then listen carefully and patiently. The best way to get another person to open up is to connect at the point where life is most real for them.
It’s worth noting that we adults often forget (sometimes deliberately) how stressful primary and secondary school can be. Teens are overloaded with changes happening inside as well as all around them. The school setting can be socially exhausting for some students. They want grace, understanding, a sense of worth and belonging – and unconditional love.
Occasionally, your children may feel like leaving their day in the rearview mirror as much as you might. So be sensitive and allow them space when they need it. The rest of the time, find out what’s important that day and connect with them over it. As you establish a climate of caring concern, you’ll find that they’re more apt to initiate meaningful conversation.
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